Killing Your Darlings

The Faulkner quote goes, “In writing, you must kill your darlings.” It’s not what I intended to write about today. Instead, I’d intended to write today’s post about an early spring. I meant to use it as a metaphor for something that I’ve been experiencing. However,  I can’t seem to make the connections on the page (or the screen) yet, and I don’t have it in me to cut the other post to bits right now. Sometimes you just have to build up the strength.

Just a couple of weeks ago, my novel hit an impasse. I’d written what was essentially a treatment in a flurry of excitement, but I’d also written myself into a corner. I spent days agonizing over it. My husband tried his best to encourage me. (“Just don’t put your head in the oven”, he said, finally, when nothing else worked.)

When the solution to my problem finally hit me, it was clear that about 20 pages had to go. (I’m giving you a conservative estimate; since then much more has been replaced.)  Although I was attached to certain parts, and felt disappointment in having to let go of some of the nuances I’d liked about the story, I don’t feel any remorse over the reaping. And that’s the most important thing to remember: The novel and I have both survived.

If you’ve ever written you know what it is like to kill your darlings, to look at something that you LOVE and cut it because it does not work in a piece. If you are writing and you don’t know what that’s like, then you may need to revisit some of your prose. Every writer has to do it. The best advise I can give is to kill them quickly (but if you save the clippings in a different file for future use no one’s judging).

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